South Elgin's defense stays perfect, blanks East Aurora
The South Elgin offense started slowly against East Aurora, but the defense was sharp from the outset of a 47-0 Upstate Eight home win Saturday.
Led by junior middle linebacker Vince Clinite, senior cornerback Azxavier Salinas and sophomore cornerback Davion Cherwin, the Storm 4-4 defense posted a second straight shutout. They created 2 take-aways, forced punts on 6 of 8 East Aurora possessions and limited the Tomcats to 59 total yards.
"We play as a team and I like the way we play," Clinite said. "Our goal is to not give up any points all year."
South Elgin's first possession began at the East Aurora 30-yard line after a short punt, but the offense managed only 6 yards before settling for a 41-yard Andrew Bucaro field goal.
South Elgin (2-0, 2-0) fumbled at midfield on its next possession, but the defense again forced East Aurora (0-2, 0-2) to punt.
The ensuing Storm possession lasted 11 plays and covered 57 yards, however, quarterback Jakub Johnson's overthrow was intercepted by 6-2 senior defensive back Kevin Cruz at the 14-yard line to keep it a 3-point game with 8:47 left in the second quarter.
"Defensively, I thought that we played pretty well in the first quarter and the start of the second," first-year East Aurora coach Nick Kukuc said. "We were playing pretty gap-sound football. But they're a resilient team. They kept plugging away, running the ball, running that dive, running some option and they moved their way up."
South Elgin's defense provided a spark when Salinas made a running, one-handed interception at his own 30 and returned it 10 yards.
"I just stuck my hand out and I just caught it," he said. "I got lucky, I guess."
Salinas, who alternated drives at quarterback with Johnson, went 3-for-3 on the ensuing 60-yard, 10-play march. Salinas finished it off with a 3-yard keeper and Bucaro's extra point staked South Elgin to a 10-0 lead with 2:52 left in the half.
After the Storm defense forced a three-and-out, Salinas delivered a gut punch 22.1 seconds before halftime. He scrambled to his left in search of a receiver and took off running. He made a sharp cutback 10 yards downfield and raced 59 yards untouched up the right side of the field. Bucaro's extra point gave South Elgin a 17-0 halftime lead.
The third quarter was a different story for the Storm offense, which scored 23 points in the period to take a 40-0 lead with 1:38 left. Johnson directed a 16-play, 75-yard drive that he finished with a 1-yard run, Cherwin took a pitch and scored from 6 yards out and fourth-string running back Travis Tranchitella rushed for an 11-yard touchdown. Johnson's conversion run started a running clock.
"In the locker room at halftime, we just talked about how we have to execute better," Johnson said. "Then we came out and showed it."